What is a woman?


I got this question in email. Oh god.

I was wondering if you are, or were willing to comment on Matt Walsh’s movie, ‘What is a Woman?’?

While I did see your post on the question being asked to Ketanji Brown Jackson, I did find your response a little unsatisfying. Yes, coming up with an inclusive, biology specific definition is problematic; but Matt and others are just asking for a basic dictionary or functional definition. If you can define a cat, as for example, a member of the Family Felidae, or a carnivorous mammal with retractible claws, or a common family pet that purrs, then you should be able to provide a definition of a woman.

Most of the people asked in Matt’s movie either refuse to provide a definition, or give a circular definition. This is problematic in a couple of ways. Words have meaning. If you are unwilling, or unable, to provide a definition of a word that you use, then that word is meaningless. If you can define what cat, dog, or bird means, but can’t, or won’t, define man or woman, then there is a problem. If you are unwilling to define what a woman is because you are worried about the personal consequences of doing that publicly, such as public backlash, losing your job, etc. then you have a perfect example of cancel culture.

No, I didn’t see that movie, nor will I be seeing it in the future. It’s a stupid gotcha question.

You know, not everything fits into a tidy category that can be encapsulated in a brief dictionary entry. This bizarre need to make everything sharp-edged, black-and-white, rigidly and scrupulous defined is a you problem, not a me problem. I’m fine with ambiguity and complexity, and “woman” is an extremely complex category. If you’re going to complain about circular definitions, the Merriam-Webster definition fits the bill: “an adult female person”. Sure, go with that. “Adult” is ill-defined, “person” is the subject of many arguments, and “female”…well, here’s another dictionary definition: “of, relating to, or being the sex that typically has the capacity to bear young or produce eggs”. “Typically,” huh. So not necessarily? Or how about this alternative, “having a gender identity that is the opposite of male”? That implies a simple binary, which is false, and worse, suggests males and females are opposites of each other, rather than positions on a continuum.

Oh, here’s another alternative: “characteristic of girls, women, or the female sex”. See “woman”.

You want a nice clean dictionary definition? Sorry, guy, that’s just a whole ‘nother ball of worms. The desire for a reductive simplification is a fallacious goal that is just going to fuck you up. It is not “cancel culture” if people give you the side-eye and think you’re an ass if you provide a simple-minded definition that excludes a large number of women who know they are women, who have a history of womanhood, who interact with society as women, who present as women, who live as women, because you want an inadequate 5 word definition that makes you feel like you’ve mastered the concept of “woman” while not actually understanding anything. That approach always leads to slotting all women into a narrow restrictive box that makes no one happy or satisfied. It also damages men, because then, since we’re “opposites”, we’re expected to shun anything that might overlap with femininity.

Here’s something else that’s problematic: that you think a theocratic fascist like Matt Walsh is making a good point by insisting that everyone must provide a narrow range of criteria for womanhood. Nope, not going to do it. I’ve met many women, and they are diverse. They’re not Barbie dolls, mass produced for your pleasure. Stop trying to find a single mold to define them, and accept them as people. If you face public backlash because they reject your expectations of how a woman should be, that’s not “cancel culture”. That’s just someone recognizing you are an asshole. And if lots of people think the same way, consider the possibility that it’s not their failure to define a word to meet your simplistic views, it’s that maybe you are an asshole.

You know who else liked Walsh’s awful movie? JK Rowling.

If you find yourself agreeing with either Walsh or Rowling, you’ve accepted a conservative view that dehumanizes women, reducing them to a cartoon.

Also, please don’t try to pretend the authority of biology supports your expectation of sharp, precise boundaries to everything. Biologists know that biology is fuzzy about everything.

Comments

  1. Samuel Vimes says

    Rebecca Watson did a video a few weeks ago about this (link below). She talk about simple and complex answers and, via another YouTuber who is transgender, leaves us with this short-and-sweet “good enough” answer for those who think they’re being clever when they ask “What is a woman?”

    …A woman is a person who our society typically associates with the female sex.

  2. Athywren - not the moon you're looking for says

    If you can define a cat, as for example, a member of the Family Felidae, or a carnivorous mammal with retractible claws, or a common family pet that purrs, then you should be able to provide a definition of a woman.

    Tbh I’m not sure how good these definitions are for cats? A common family pet? Guinea pigs are fairly common family pets, I think. We have a couple of guinea pigs. My sweet little fluffballs purr from time to time. I feel confident that they aren’t cats though.
    Is a cat who has been declawed or maybe didn’t develop claws for whatever reason still a cat?
    I guess what I’m saying to “if you can define cat…” is can we though? I mean they’re good enough for a rough general idea that’ll fit in most cases, but reality has no obligation to strictly match up with definitions.

  3. Athywren - not the moon you're looking for says

    On, “what is a woman?”
    She’s whatever the hell she wants to be.

  4. Reginald Selkirk says

    Words have meaning. If you are unwilling, or unable, to provide a definition of a word that you use, then that word is meaningless.

    And yet, an immense amount of time is wasted debating poorly defined words. Consider god, consciousness, intelligence. The next time a religionist tries to debate god, ask them to define it clearly first.

  5. says

    If you can define what cat, dog, or bird means, but can’t, or won’t, define man or woman, then there is a problem.

    I also do not think we define “cat,” “dog,” nor “bird” as distinctly as they think. Someone, for example, might intend to use “cat” to speak of just the domestic house cat variety. Someone else, though, might want to use it to include lions, panthers, tigers, etc. This is to say the context in which the word is used is important.
    But then I took a second look and they mention this problem, yet fail to recognize it. They said, “If you can define a cat, as for example, a member of the Family Felidae, or a carnivorous mammal with retractible (sic) claws, or a common family pet that purrs…” They just gave three separate definitions and the last of which is not just a rewording of the first two. (Even the first two might not define the same thing. I am unsure there.) So they cannot even define “cat” and worst of all is they don’t even realize they failed to do so.

  6. raven says

    You know, not everything fits into a tidy category that can be encapsulated in a brief dictionary entry.

    QFT.

    Yeah, a lot of things are parts of spectrums or continuous variations.
    A simple example would be atheist.

    Some people who call themselves atheists believe in a higher power that could also just be called the universe, pantheists.

    Pew Research

    At the same time, roughly one-in-five self-described atheists (18%) say they do believe in some kind of higher power. None of the atheists we surveyed, however, say they believe in “God as described in the Bible.”

    I’m a Pagan atheist. It’s not a contradiction if the Pagan gods are symbolic.
    Some are agnostic, some aren’t.
    There are all sorts of degrees and variations of atheists.

    For that matter, some xians don’t believe their gods and jesus actually exist either, at least not in the descriptions in the bible. And the term xian covers a huge amount of variation from Trinitarian to nontrinitarian and polytheistic (Mormons) to the point that they used to fight huge wars among themselves.

    Autism, schizophrenia, and Bipolar are all found on spectrums from normal to way out there. They aren’t binary conditions.

  7. specialffrog says

    To quote Umberto Eco:
    “All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning.”

  8. Ed Seedhouse says

    “Also, please don’t try to pretend the authority of biology supports your expectation of sharp, precise boundaries to everything. Biologists know that biology is fuzzy about everything.”

    Which leads me to speculate that the “Harry Potter” books would have made much better animated movies than the actual ones.

  9. says

    Some jackass made a WHOLE MOVIE on the subject of “what is a woman?” Really? That might kinda work as really laughably bad, unserious erotica (think John Cleese leading a sex-ed class a la “Meaning of Life”); but as anything else, fuggedabboudit! Truly Sad.

    A woman is a person who our society typically associates with the female sex.

    Yes. That works perfectly, because that’s how people have always distinguished men from women in real-world interactions. We can argue forever about specific characteristics like egg-producing bits or XX chromosomes, but those aren’t really relevant here — we’ve been distinguishing men from women long before we even knew some of those characteristics existed, and without having any ability to test for them each and every time. Seriously, do people who follow the dictionary definition of “of, relating to, or being the sex that typically has the capacity to bear young or produce eggs” ever bother examining anyone’s privates before deciding what sex they are? Of course not — everyone knows that’s not an option, and it’s not necessary; so for all practical purposes, we don’t really use that definition in our day-to-day interactions, so it’s not really a relevant definition.

  10. says

    What’s dumber than someone who thinks the Bible (or the Koran) is the source of all knowledge? Someone who thinks a dictionary is the source of all knowledge.

  11. birgerjohansson says

    In the SF novel A History if What Comes Next by Sylvan Neuvel the protagonists are human-mimicking GM women who reproduce like the Amazon Molly (the fish can be found in USA, not in South America BTW).

    If the regressive right/fundies tried to shoehorn this concept into their worldview their heads would explode.

    But we ,(SF readers) will already be familiar with Philip Jose Farmer’s book The Lovers which goes even further. So absorbing the idea of non-binary gender is not something big.

  12. StevoR says

    What is a woman? What is a man? Why is a woman? How long is a piece of string? Are there any silly questions? What is Jeopardy?

  13. says

    So…I wonder if the guy who sent that email will show up here and at least acknowledge reading all our responses to his question. If he responds by email, I hope PZ will tell us what he had to say.

  14. says

    Clean dictionary definitions are just wonderful, aren’t they? Remember how precise dictionary definitions of “atheism” quickly cleared up a whole bunch of ambiguous confusion? Yeah, that was really excellent. Riiiiiiiight.

  15. IX-103, the ■■■■ing idiot says

    Biology is fuzzy. Chemistry is fuzzy. Physics is fuzzy. Reality is fuzzy.

    There’s a fundamental problem in how science is taught where they ignore this. They teach the model as if it was reality. So we end up with perfect taxonomic classifications, reactions that always completely consume their reactants in stoichiometric ratios, and objects that follow ballistic trajectories down to the millimeter.

    This sets up unrealistic expectations for scientific predictions that set science up to be discredited by anyone with an agenda and makes people like those that emailed you believe science has drawn nice solid lines for them to argue with.

    Taxonomy changes all the time and there may be multiple taxonomies with different bases to choose from. Other products may be produced by chemical reactions and reactions proceed to oscillate around an equilibrium dependent on many environmental factors. Nothing is empty, including space, so ballistic trajectories are more like guidelines than rules. In short, the map is not the territory.

  16. birgerjohansson says

    In the Sarah Connor TV series there was a renegade T-1000 that posed as a woman industrialist. It would be fun to introduce the guy who sent the email and let the two quarrel about wether she qualified as a woman.
    (Splat!) (How do I dispose of the human carcass?)

  17. skeptuckian says

    Scientists don’t have two categories for furry animals…cats and dogs. If something does not fit they will create a new category. What Walsh is saying is that if you saw a bear or porcupine it has to be identified as either cat family or dog family. When someone so antiscience tries to use science they reveal how little they know. Not surprising. What is surprising is why God(s) created so many stupid people.

  18. kome says

    Woman is mostly an arbitrary category that we use flexibly anyway. Is a 16-year-old a woman? In some cultures, yes, in other cultures no. Even in cultures where a 16-year-old isn’t normally a woman, “woman” will still be used to describe her under some circumstances. E.g. news reports of pedophilic Republicans, like Matt Gaetz, will write about how they raped an underage woman, despite the fact that normally those terms are mutually exclusive.

    If we can’t even agree on an easily quantifiable property such as age to delineate woman from any other category of being, such as a girl, then the entire exercise of trying to nail down a definition of woman is really revealed for the smokescreen that it is. None of the people who are asking the “what is a woman” question cares about what a woman is. What they want is an excuse to exterminate the undesirables without being fought back against by the majority of people who are kind of not cool with genocide. And we need to keep the discussion oriented on that. Debating taxonomy with Nazis and white supremacists concedes victory to them at the outset – it validates the idea that the question should be discussed, giving them a free pass to smuggle in their genocidal ideologies alongside it unquestioned.

    The question is worthless and not worth engaging with at all. “Why do you care what a woman is?” is what progressives need to start forcing the narrative to be focused on.

  19. says

    As Raging Bee points out, going to the dictionary to nail down reality is silly at best. Dictionaries describe usage, and usage changes. There was a time when ‘corn’ referred to the seeds of all grains. “Nice” has gone through many changes, from “mentally simple or stupid”, through both “wanton” and “chaste”, both “pleasing” and “obscene”, “exact” and more.

    Is a hotdog a sandwich? How big is a neighbourhood?

    Language is messy.

  20. cartomancer says

    I have to say, I am becoming increasingly depressed these days, with all these cruel bigots oozing out of the woodwork. I feel genuinely disturbed that actual human beings can devote themselves so thoroughly and absolutely to making the lives of their fellow human beings worse. And not just any fellow human beings, some of the most marginalised and oppressed human beings of the lot. Trans people need so much more progress before their lives are valued as much as those of cis people, and these complete bastards think the most pressing thing they can do with their lives is to fight against what little progress has actually been made. It benefits them nothing. It gains them nothing. It achieves nothing and harms many, and yet they do it still.

    Ditto for all the anti-abortion scoundrels braying and snorting their hateful opinions in public.

    Worse, a lot of them are just doing it to distract attention from their real agenda, which is enriching themselves and their class at the expense of others. Watching the tedious phantasmagoria of Tory leadership hopefuls trying to one-up each other on transphobia and anti-immigration sentiment is enough to drive anyone to despair. It’s one thing that people are doing arrantly hateful things to make the lives of others worse, but this is doing arrantly hateful things to cover for another set of even wider-ranging arrantly hateful things, to perpetuate a dysfunctional, divisive, unstable and unequal system that benefits them and fucks over the rest of us.

    I suppose it’s the sheer wasted potential that appals me most of all. We have the capacities, resources, ideas and ability to make things much better – and unarguably much better – for everyone, but rather than all pulling together and doing that a good number of us spend their time and energy scuppering these plans and making things even worse. Clinging to outmoded ideas of gender, outmoded economic structures, outmoded xenophobia and misogyny and homophobia and a whole rancid bouquet of suppurating cultural rubbish, rather than seeking to make the changes that need making and emancipating those who are suffering. At best it is putting a crippling fear of the unknown ahead of a desire to help people and make the world a better place, at worst it is simply greed and evil.

    And through all this we are somehow supposed to pretend that the arseholes holding humanity back simply have a different, equally valid, political position. We are supposed to respect them and maintain a farcical fiction that there is anything valid or valuable or necessary in their sclerotic, cancerous and deadly thought-world. Well I, for one, refuse to do that. I don’t think right-wing politics is a valid or respectable position, because it is founded entirely on greed, bigotry and servicing the interests of the comfortable at the expense of the suffering. It is dangerous, demonstrably-wrong rubbish and must be opposed, not humoured.

  21. raven says

    The question is worthless and not worth engaging with at all. “Why do you care what a woman is?” is what progressives need to start forcing the narrative to be focused on.

    And, why should anyone care what you (plural) think a woman is or not? It is none of your business or concern if someone has a different idea of what a woman is than you!!!

    This is why the anti-gay marriage bigots failed.
    Are there gay people on my road? Yes, it is a long road.
    Who are they and are they same sex married?
    Got me, it’s none of my business and I’ve got a whole of real things to worry about. It doesn’t affect me in any way.

    Same thing with Trans.
    Are their Trans people living on my road?
    Sure.
    Who are they?
    I don’t know or care. It’s none of my business and has no affect on my life.

  22. seachange says

    My Rick teaches math in high school, and this includes geometry which has rigid definitions and is based on things like axioms and postulates and rigid logic. He starts out by asking “what is a tiger” (if it’s an orange cat with stripes then who are Siegfired and Roy?) and “what is a knife” (is a pizza cutter a knife even though it is round?). The geometry taught in HS in the US is Euclidean. Euclid started out with five basic axioms, but didn’t really deal with the parallel postulate properly. It was inherent in the greek modes of thought at that time that you could draw things out, and you can’t draw out infinite pairs of lines. You can’t do that.

    Hilbert a very famous and important mathematician wrote a thousand page book rigorously proving that one plus one is two.

    The average unitedstatian can’t do any of that. The average unitedstatian doesn’t need to do any of that, or so they think. So why do they think they need to do this? They don’t know how their computer works. They use it anyways. They don’t know how their car works. They use it anyway. They don’t know how their furnace or air conditioner work. They use it anyways.

    So, what is a poor sad greedy whore of a language like English to do? OH NOES!

  23. lochaber says

    This is just a bad attempt to set up for a “no true scotsman” logical fallacy.

  24. birgerjohansson says

    Ada Christine @ 26
    You know your old philosophers! :-)
    A featherless biped… wasn’t Godzilla female? I am pretty sure you need to be female to lay all those eggs in New York.

  25. birgerjohansson says

    Matt Walsh should ask those gender-changing velociraptors (at least in the novel) about it. They would respond in the exact same way as they respond to anything else.

  26. says

    birgerjohansson: Kim Stanley Robinson also wrote a little about people voluntarily changing their sexual characteristics to suit certain circumstances or environments, in his Mars trilogy and its sequels.

    cartomancer: the cruel bigots WANT us to be depressed. The cruelty is the point, to deter the rest of us from even thinking we can get anything done. (Their model is Neo-Tsarist Russia.) And yes, I’m feeling it too. LOTS of people are — as in, the majority who don’t want what the cruel bigots want. FWIW, I suggest you find and hang out with as many others as possible who are feeling the same thing. Who knows, it might make everyone feel more uppity, and even get something decent done. Living well is the best revenge.

  27. Deepak Shetty says

    I dont understand the people who ask this question. Clearly they either go about checking the genitals(or some DNA report) of the people they meet or they assume everyone is genderless till proven otherwise ?

  28. Ada Christine says

    @birgerjohansson

    what does a giant radiation monster care about gender? they only want vengeance

  29. pilgham says

    Define a cat? Does Matt Walsh think women are a separate species? (Rhetorical question)

  30. billmcd says

    “If you can define a cat, as for example, a member of the Family Felidae, or a carnivorous mammal with retractible[sic] claws, or a common family pet that purrs, then you should be able to provide a definition of a woman.”

    In the interests of providing a response as accurate and functional as those definitions:

    ‘A woman is an individual who identifies as a woman.’

    I mean, ‘a member of the Family Felidae’ is pretty damned broad.

  31. Ada Christine says

    @36 billmcd

    of course it actually is that basic. unfortunately self-reporting of gender identity isn’t what the trans-haters want.they want something that doesn’t require the input of those whom they seek to judge. they conflate “objective” with “objectification” in this way.

  32. says

    It seems to me that we should challenge all situations in which that is even an interesting question, because it exposes inherent inequality.

    I’m not into sports but it seems to me that the gender question is a matter of height/weight (as a proxy for muscle mass) – is there any indication that a 6′ tall 250lb woman can’t punch people in the face the same as a comparable sized man? Of course women don’t tend to come in that size, but so what if they do? And up and down the scale. Could we not class runners by inseam length and weight? Etc.

  33. Ada Christine says

    also, love how condescending the email is to assume that PZ refuses to play the gender word game out of fear for his reputation rather than a place of genuine respect for trans people. they hate us so fucking much that they even project that hatred on to people who vocally reject it.

  34. lanir says

    Why didn’t he ask “What is a man?” I think that’s rather telling since there’s no real reason to prefer either gender when it comes to making the point he’s after. Did he feel like he’d get more replies about masculinity? Is that not what he’s after? Then maybe he should use his words better because words mean things. If he can’t be specific about what he’s asking for then he can’t possibly have an honest or reasonable take on this topic. And that means there’s no reason to entertain his BS at all.*

    Yes, I took the scenic route to get back to where all of us started (ie, this guy is full of BS). But I think the points in the middle are quite telling.

  35. Reginald Selkirk says

    @7 None of the atheists we surveyed, however, say they believe in “God as described in the Bible.”

    True. I also do not believe in “bats as defined in the Bible.” I.e. bats are not a type of ‘fowl’ as stated in Leviticus 11:19 (KJV).

  36. birgerjohansson says

    I am pretty sure cats self-identify as “lords of everything in sight”.
    .
    Are the four-legged insects described in the bible male or female?
    .
    And the talking ants in the koran never reveal their gender. Frustrating, if you want to label everything.

  37. Akira MacKenzie says

    I wonder if Matt ever thought that the Harry Potter books were “Satanic.”

  38. Tethys says

    If you can define what cat, dog, or bird means, but can’t, or won’t, define man or woman, then there is a problem.

    The initial problem is category error.

    cat dog bird = human
    Tom Queen = Man Woman

    Why are these people so obsessed with demonizing and denying the existence of the transgender segment of humanity? Self determination, inclusiveness, and equality are generally held to be beneficial to a healthy society, so whyTF do they feel the need to make literal anti-trans propaganda?

    Trans people exist regardless of the opinion of these self-serving bigots, and their hate speech is excellent proof that trans people absolutely deserve the full protection of being specifically included in anti discrimination laws. Nobody is suddenly going to decide to be transgender and transition on a whim, and Devil worshippers still aren’t kidnapping hitchhikers for satanic rituals.

  39. Ada Christine says

    @47 Tethys

    i have a hypothesis on why trans women in particular are so hated by right-wingers: it’s that we’ve done the unthinkable and rejected the greatest gift that God could bestow on a human being: manhood. This is a grave insult to the social order they want to maintain. It’s an affront to their entire belief system.

  40. Ada Christine says

    That’s why i laugh when. they claim to be working to protect women and girls. women and girls are in danger because of patriarchy, not because some AMABs decided they want no part of it. pure and simple scapegoating.

  41. Reginald Selkirk says

    @50: The traitor Josh Hawley insists he’s “just asking questions.”

  42. says

    From the review cited by unclestinky:

    Walsh seems very satisfied when he visits some Maasai people in Africa, who tell him that men have penises and women have vaginas, and that’s that.

    Ah yes, appealing to the stereotypical simple noble savage to show us the simple truth that educated cosmopolitans are ignoring.

    But the Maasai men that Walsh speaks to also tell him that men and women have different roles in their society, that men do certain things and women do different things, which raises the question of whether physical makeup really is the most important factor defining gender.

    Oops, looks like the cute little savages aren’t cooperating. The trans-activist cabal must be more widespread than we’d thought…

  43. dianne says

    If you can define a cat, as for example, a member of the Family Felidae, or a carnivorous mammal with retractible[sic] claws, or a common family pet that purrs, then you should be able to provide a definition of a woman.

    Just to pile on this one a little more: This supposed example of an entity with a simple, clear definition gets three different definitions, none of which actually does define a “cat” in any useful way.

    Family Felidae includes a lot of animals that are distinctly not house cats, which means that it is mutually contradictory with “common family pet that purrs.”

    Mongooses (mongeese?) are carnivorous mammals with claws that retract, but they aren’t cats, not even if you include the great cats in your definition.

    As to common family pets that purr, my dog purrs. However, since she’s also omnivorous and never retracts her claws, I don’t think she can be considered a cat, despite fitting the description of “a common family pet that purrs”.

    So why again should it be easy to define “woman”?

    And what about the menz? I’m not sure what the social significance is of there being a whole movie about the definition of a woman but no comment at all on the definition of a man, but it does seem like there might be just a little objectification going on in there somewhere.

  44. Allison says

    If there were any argument or point worth thinking about in that film, I’m sure I would have heard it already, given how much I (like most trans people) have been studying and thinking and reading about gender. I wouldn’t need to watch his film to find out about it. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard most of the “trans women aren’t women” arguments already, or at least the best of them, and I have not yet heard any reason to suppose he has anything new to contribute.

    It’s like the people who write books claiming to have “disproven Einstein” (I assume they’re talking about Special Relativity.) If there were anything to their refutations, someone else would have hit on it sooner or later, and we would have heard about it already. It would be much, much bigger news than anything from Hubble or JWST.

    BTW, I don’t bother to poke holes in those “1=0” proofs, either, even though I’m a PhD mathematician. I have better things to do with my time.

  45. says

    All the “1=0” proofs I’ve seen so far are pretty easy to debunk: just find the bit where the mathematical proof gets to dividing by zero.

  46. fuyura says

    We all know the answer: a woman is someone who drives like this, as compared to French people who drive like that. And if penguins could, they’d drive this other way.

  47. Tethys says

    Here is an entire twitter thread from a sociologist (?) that specifically mocks this film, and provides information and photographs on all the other Cultures around the world who have long recognized that there are people who don’t fit into a gender binary.

    This was heavily repressed by colonization.

    https://mobile.twitter.com/MarinaAdshade/status/1534945804917428224

    *watching the actual clip of Matt Walsh asking stupid questions is unnecessary, unless you enjoy experiencing a strong desire to punch him.

  48. Ridana says

    Cheetahs, for all practical purposes, cannot fully retract their claws. So I guess they’re not cats.

  49. Akira MacKenzie says

    If you think this is garbage, Walsh also wrote a shitty, transphobic children’s book about a boy who wants to become a walrus and his mother who gives in due to pressure from the Internet. It’s not until the zookeeper, who looks suspiciously like Walsh, sets them straight by telling them that Johnny can never be a walrus because of biology.

  50. John Morales says

    Suggestive it is, that the question is never “what is a man”.

    (It’s never about trans men in sport, or about trans men in bathrooms, etc)

  51. Jazzlet says

    As a woman isn’t a thing the question should be “whois a woman?” Of course that would involve patriachal idiots having to admit that women are people in their own rights, not just the possessions of their menfolk. If they havve to do this performative idiocy the least they could do is ask “How do you define woman?”.

  52. Fred Kadiddlehopper says

    PZ: “a conservative view that dehumanizes women, reducing them to a cartoon”

    Hardly. “woman”, as you’ve quoted Merriam-Webster saying, is “an adult female person”. Which is merely a label that denotes a rather transitory reproductive status and ability; it’s hardly an identity, much less an immutable one. Which you once commendably argued – even it seems something in the way of a “Road to Damascus” conversion:

    ” ‘female’ is not applicable — it refers to individuals that produce ova. By the technical definition, many cis women are not female.

    It’s a problematic term to identify someone by their mode of reproduction.”

    https://twitter.com/pzmyers/status/1466458067491598342

    As you suggest, far too many are making the sexes (male & female) and the genders (man & woman) – although “man” and “woman” are also problematically defined, as does Merriam-Webster, as the “intersection” of sexes, age, & species – into identities. Hardly much better than pinning yellow-stars to one’s chest – or breast as the case may be – and shuffling off into self-imposed ghettos.

    PZ: “Biologists know that biology is fuzzy about everything.”

    That may be something of serious limitation of biology. Or, more credibly, of many of its practitioners who are hobbled by biases of one sort or another. But your own “individuals that produce ova” definition for “female” – largely the biological definition endorsed by most credible sources – seems rather precise and quite unambiguous. As you suggest, the logical consequence of which is that those who can’t “produce ova” – prepubescent girls & menopausees for examples – are, ipso facto, not females.

  53. Tethys says

    Ugh, the YouTube algorithm has now decided that I wish to be further exposed to the traitor Senators videotape of him being a transphobic douchebag. It is mentioned @50.

    Out of morbid curiosity, I checked the comments under his version of this interaction which is on YouTube. Oddly enough, all the comments support his hate and nobody had downvoted it. Clearly there are some very hard-working assistants on his staff overseeing the comments, but I am not sure how they are preventing anyone from using the downvoting function.

    Now to clear every cache and history.

  54. Fred Kadiddlehopper says

    Ridana #58: “Cheetahs, for all practical purposes, cannot fully retract their claws. So I guess they’re not cats.”

    You may wish to take a gander at the Wikipedia article on species. The necessary and sufficient condition to qualify as a member of one is to have compatible karyotypes, to be able to interbreed. Although there are apparently a few “devils in the details” of that particular definition.

    But while I know next to diddly-squat about different cat species – or “races” as the case may be – one might still reasonably surmise that “retractable claws” probably qualify as “accidental properties” of the category “cat”. Decent article over at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on that “accidental-essential” dichotomy.

  55. Erp says

    @seachange

    Hilbert a very famous and important mathematician wrote a thousand page book rigorously proving that one plus one is two.

    I think that was actually Russell and Whitehead in Principia Mathematica. It was not the only thing they were trying to prove. BTW Bertrand Russell was also very much a social progressive.

  56. StevoR says

    @ ^ Tethys : Future tip – try checking stuff ike that out in incognito mode on the computer maybe? Not sure if it will work but..
    Yes, I didn’t think youtube channels could block just down votes either..

    @25. kome : Truth. Well put.

    @ 60. John Morales : Yes. Which again highlights what #48-49 Ada Christine says. Although, counter-example the abuse and deadnaming of Eklliott Page. See also the life and death of Brandon Teena (the subject of the Boys Don’ Cry movie.) But as a general rule – yes.

    @ 61. Jazzlet : Truth! Spot on.

    @ 46. Akira MacKenzie : “I wonder if Matt ever thought that the Harry Potter books were “Satanic.”

    Good question. A quick google search couldn’t find anything on his views there but it wouldn’t surprise me and he did claim that Yoga was demonic apparently.

  57. StevoR says

    @ 63. Erp : yes, seems so :

    <

    blockquote>Whitehead and Russell’s Principia Mathematica is famous for taking a thousand pages to prove that 1+1=2. Of course, it proves a lot of other stuff, too. If they had wanted to prove only that 1+1=2, it would probably have taken only half as much space.
    Principia Mathematica is an odd book, worth looking into from a historical point of view as well as a mathematical one. It was written around 1910, and mathematical logic was still then in its infancy, fresh from the transformation worked on it by Peano and Frege. The notation is somewhat obscure, because mathematical notation has evolved substantially since then. And many of the simple techniques that we now take for granted are absent. Like a poorly-written computer program, a lot of Principia Mathematica’s bulk is repeated code, separate sections that say essentially the same things, because the authors haven’t yet learned the techniques that would allow the sections to be combined into one..

    <

    blockquote>

    Source : https://blog.plover.com/math/PM.html

    Of course, the actual real answers to 1 + 1 depends on the context for instance adding a written 1 next to another makes it 11 whilst adding one particle of matter to one of anti-matter makes zero, well technically a big explosion, adding one lion to one zebra soon results in just the one lion and adding one fertile male rabbit to one fertile female rabbit leads over time to an indeterminate but ever increasing number of rabbits.. Showing even seemingly simple questions aremn’t always straightforward and depend on what we’re actaully talking about and meaning by it.

    In the specific case of this Republican douchebag Matt Walsh of course what he’s talking about in context is a disingenuous bad faith attack on trans people to which a correct answer is “fuck off you transphobic bigot!”

  58. Ridana says

    @ Tethys: I think You Tube disabled downvoting quite some time ago. They’ve also made it difficult to figure out when something was posted on many videos (some still have the post date, but others you have to guess from comments dates), though I have no idea why.

  59. John Morales says

    StevoR,

    @ 60. John Morales : Yes. Which again highlights what #48-49 Ada Christine says.

    True.

    (My comment was independent of that, though; consilience)

  60. Ada Christine says

    @64 SteveoR

    Trans men are are the flip side of the coin in that they reject the subordination and claim equal standing as men. In my not-remotely-scientific psychoanalysis this is less of a threat because trans men haven’t had the sort of mainstream media visibility that trans women have had over the last several years. With Elliott Page being lobster boy’s latest target of obsessive bigotry we’ll see how the rhetoric develops and changes, though.

  61. unclefrogy says

    I suppose it’s the sheer wasted potential that appals me most of all. We have the capacities, resources, ideas and ability to make things much better – and unarguably much better – for everyone, but rather than all pulling together and doing that a good number of us spend their time and energy scuppering these plans and making things even worse. Clinging to outmoded ideas of gender, outmoded economic structures, outmoded xenophobia and misogyny and homophobia and a whole rancid bouquet of suppurating cultural rubbish, rather than seeking to make the changes that need making and emancipating those who are suffering. At best it is putting a crippling fear of the unknown ahead of a desire to help people and make the world a better place, at worst it is simply greed and evil.

    And through all this we are somehow supposed to pretend that the arseholes holding humanity back simply have a different, equally valid, political position. We are supposed to respect them and maintain a farcical fiction that there is anything valid or valuable or necessary in their sclerotic, cancerous and deadly thought-world. Well I, for one, refuse to do that. I don’t think right-wing politics is a valid or respectable position, because it is founded entirely on greed, bigotry and servicing the interests of the comfortable at the expense of the suffering. It is dangerous, demonstrably-wrong rubbish and must be opposed, not humoured.

    I could not express it better and probably take a lot longer correcting the spelling it is not only dangerous but essentially destructive and if continued always ends in ruinous failure. we have quite a lot of impending going on just lately that keeps me awake with concern and these assholes are not in the least bit helpful.

  62. Fred Kadiddlehopper says

    Allison #54: ” I’m pretty sure I’ve heard most of the ‘trans women aren’t women’ arguments already …”

    How about the one predicated on the definition – as PZ more or less endorsed – of “woman” as “adult human female”?

    https://twitter.com/pzmyers/status/1466458067491598342

    No doubt some if not many transactivists insist that “male” and “female” are also genders – Veronica Ivy in a recent interview for example. And even Wikipedia – rather sadly – avers in their article on female that “In humans, the word female can also be used to refer to gender.”

    But whatever Ivy and other such activists mean by “male” and “female” – maybe “exhibiting traits typical of adult human females (sex)”?, it is clearly other than the standard biological definitions. Which, once again, PZ accepts and commendably endorses as, for “female (sex)”, “produces ova”. You seriously think that transwomen can do that? Rather think that the biological definitions and the definition of “woman” as “adult human female (sex)” kind of knocks the “transwomen are women” claim into a cocked hat.

    Rather disconcerting that we now have to qualify male, female, man, and woman – eg., “male (sex)”, “female (gender)”, “woman (sex)” – because of the egregious obfuscation of transactivists, and their rather unseemly desperation to seen as something that they’re not.

    But if you really do have a PhD in mathematics then you should appreciate the concept of “necessary and sufficient condition”. As the necessary and sufficient condition (NSC) to qualify as a teenager is “be 13 to 19 inclusive”, so “produces ova” is the NSC to qualify as a female (sex).

  63. Tethys says

    Hm, I seem to be fresh out of ova, and lack the ability to produce ova, but I still qualify as a female human/woman/Mom.

    Why do trolls feel the need to be trolls to trans people? What is your damage?

  64. says

    Fred, did you even read the OP before posting that incoherent rubbish? I ask because just about all of your assertions have already been dealt with, and you totally refuse to acknowledge any of it. Just for starters, you claim to care about defining who is a woman, but you ignore the definition quoted in an early comment: “A woman is a person who our society typically associates with the female sex.” Do you have a problem with that? If so, what?

    And as others have said already, why do you care so much about which definition to use? How are any of those definitions relevant to you in your day-to-day decision-making? How is someone else’s gender even your business at all? How, exactly, does it harm you if you simply let other people tell you what gender they are and don’t quibble about it?

    Which, once again, PZ accepts and commendably endorses as, for “female (sex)”, “produces ova”. You seriously think that transwomen can do that?

    You seriously think all cis women can do that? Again, why is ova-production even relevant to you?

  65. says

    How about the one predicated on the definition – as PZ more or less endorsed – of “woman” as “adult human female”?

    How about it? We already know that a transwoman is adult and human (which, BTW, means they have the same rights as other humans), and if she says she’s female and presents herself as female, then what reason is there not to consider her a woman? If you have no standing to get a search warrant to check her DNA or her ovaries, then you have no standing to dispute that she is, in fact, a woman. QEDuh.

  66. Fred Kadiddlehopper says

    Tethys, #73: “Hm, I seem to be fresh out of ova, and lack the ability to produce ova, but I still qualify as a female human/woman/Mom.”

    You can SAY that “2+2=5”, but that doesn’t make it true.

    But you may wish to take a real close look at that tweet of PZ’s. In particular, his:

    By the technical definition, many cis women are not female.

    Though I think he’s fallen into the logical fallacy of equivocation – he’s apparently using “cis woman” as a gender which is contrary to his earlier assertion or acceptance that it’s a sex: “adult human female (sex)”. But IF “woman” is defined as “adult human females (sex)” THEN all women are females. His assertion there makes as much sense as “many cis teenagers are not 13 to 19”.

    But if you’re “fresh out of ova” then you WERE a female. As both you and I WERE once teenagers.

    “male (sex)” and “female (sex)” are not identities – much less immutable ones – as PZ suggested. They’re merely the labels that denote transitory biological reproductive abilities.

  67. says

    Rather disconcerting that we now have to qualify male, female, man, and woman – eg., “male (sex)”, “female (gender)”, “woman (sex)”…

    If dealing with something that’s more complex than you’d originally thought it was is “disconcerting” to you, that’s your problem, not ours. It’s not our job to dumb down a complex reality just so you can feel better; it’s YOUR job to catch up and adapt. We have our own complex realities and situations to deal with and adapt to.

  68. says

    But if you’re “fresh out of ova” then you WERE a female.

    Are you saying she’s not a female now? If so, then you’re going against a universally accepted definition of “female,” AND being an insulting stupid jackass to boot.

  69. Fred Kadiddlehopper says

    Raging Bee #75: ” and if she says she’s female and presents herself as female”

    And if I were to dress up as a doctor – put on a lab-coat and dangle a stethoscope over my shoulder – and SAY I was a doctor then you would let me perform some operations in a hospital? If you get a cowboy outfit then you can be a cowboy too? Rank insanity. Far too many these days haven’t got a clue about the difference between appearance and substance – I blame video games …

    But if “male” and “female” mean anything and everything then they mean nothing. And are virtually useless for any gatekeeping at all, for any apportionment of rights and opportunities. It may well be a moot question whether society should be granting “adult human females (sex)” any special rights and privileges.

    But, assuming we want to, we can’t very well do that if we can’t even say, precisely, what are the criteria, what are the objectively quantifiable traits that uniquely differentiates females (sex) from males (sex). Particularly where there are some serious conflicts between the rights that “adult human females (sex) might reasonably expect, and those of “adult human males (sex)”.

    Although when you get down to brass tacks, sex, as a marker of reproductive abilities, really isn’t a particularly useful go/no-go gauge. Why we should be using genitalia for toilets and change rooms: one set of loos for the vagina-havers, and one set for the penis-havers – or reasonable facsimiles thereof. Similarly with women’s sports, although karyotype is a better bet – “No XY need apply” …

  70. says

    And if I were to dress up as a doctor – put on a lab-coat and dangle a stethoscope over my shoulder – and SAY I was a doctor then you would let me perform some operations in a hospital?

    Your analogy is like Hitler at an ice-rink. A profession is not the same as a sex or gender, and you know it. Take your obviously dishonest analogies and shove them back where they came from.

    But if “male” and “female” mean anything and everything then they mean nothing.

    NO ONE EVER said they mean “anything and everything.”

    …And are virtually useless for any gatekeeping at all…

    Who’s doing the “gatekeeping,” and what standing do they have to do so? Please specify exactly what “gates” need to be “kept,” and who has any actual authority or god reason to keep them?

    …for any apportionment of rights and opportunities.

    Human and legal rights are not “apportioned,” except in fascist regimes; and if opportunities are apportioned, then they should be apportioned according to criteria appropriate to…whatever specific activities you’re talking about. Once you’ve specified which activities you’re talking about, then people who are knowledgeable about them can do the apportioning. I get a feeling that won’t include you, so your opinion isn’t really relevant here.

  71. Fred Kadiddlehopper says

    Raging Bee #78: “If so, then you’re going against a universally accepted definition of “female,” …

    What unmitigated horse crap. Even PZ apparently now, surprisingly but quite thankfully, endorses “produces ova” – present tense indefinite – as the “technical definition”, as the biological definition for “female (sex)”.

    “produces ova” is, as I’ve argued above, what is called the “necessary and sufficient condition” to qualify any human – any member of any sexually-reproducing species for that matter – as a female. You may wish to take a real close look at the Wikipedia article on “Extensional and intensional definitions”. Of particular note therefrom:

    “An intensional definition gives meaning to a term by specifying necessary and sufficient conditions for when the term should be used. In the case of nouns, this is equivalent to specifying the properties that an object needs to have in order to be counted as a referent of the term.”

    But many other sources – Google/OED, Lexico, Wikipedia, the Journal of Theoretical Biology, and the Journal of Molecular Human Reproduction (JMHR) – all endorse PZ’s “technical definitions”, the biological definitions predicated on having functional gonads of either of two types; those with neither are, ipso facto, sexless.

    From the latter (JMHR), in an article titled “Gamete competition, gamete limitation, and the evolution of the two sexes (2014/1972)” by biologists Lehtonen and Parker (FRS), assert the same definitions in their glossary:

    “Female: Biologically, the female sex is defined as the adult phenotype that produces [present tense indefinite] the larger gametes in anisogamous systems.

    Male: Biologically, the male sex is defined as the adult phenotype that produces [present tense indefinite] the smaller gametes in anisogamous systems.”

    “universally accepted” – what a joke. “universally accepted” mostly only in the so-called social sciences where they’re more concerned with “feelinz” than with facts and logic.

  72. says

    Even PZ apparently now, surprisingly but quite thankfully, endorses “produces ova” – present tense indefinite – as the “technical definition”, as the biological definition for “female (sex)”.

    Yes, and he then went on to acknowledge that the “technical definition” isn’t always adequate or relevant, and that biology is NEVER as simple as “technical definitions” make it out to be. You are being blatantly dishonest about PZ’s arguments here, which means you’re a liar, and there’s no use arguing with the opinions of obvious liars.

    Also, your dishonesty further proves that you have no standing to question, dispute or argue about other people’s sex or gender. NO ONE is EVER obligated to explain their complex personal situations to any obnoxious pig-ignorant liar.

  73. woozy says

    As you suggest, the logical consequence of which is that those who can’t “produce ova” – prepubescent girls & menopausees for examples – are, ipso facto, not females.

    You seem to be missing the point that any such definition for societal purposes is utterly useless and completely unacceptable by anyone. If you tell my wife she is neither female nor a woman I imagine she will knock your teeth down your throat.

    By the way, my fruit salad composed of eggplant, pumpkin and the fleshy peelings of walnut coverings was a huge flop.

  74. Fred Kadiddlehopper says

    Raging Bee #80: “Your analogy is like Hitler at an ice-rink. A profession is not the same as a sex or gender, and you know it.”

    Don’t think you have a clue about analogies – most anything to do with logic and biology, in fact. But you might try looking at the Wikipedia article on the topic of analogies, this passage in particular on the comparison between hand and foot:

    “This analogy is not comparing all the properties between a hand and a foot, but rather comparing the relationship between a hand and its palm to a foot and its sole.[4] While a hand and a foot have many dissimilarities, the analogy focuses on their similarity in having an inner surface.”

    The “source” and “target” don’t have to be identical – only have some similarities that are relevant. The point is that bogus claims – to being a doctor or a member of the female (sex) category – should both be given the short shrift they both so richly deserve.

    Raging Bee #82: “Yes, and he then went on to acknowledge that the “technical definition” isn’t always adequate or relevant,”

    And which definitions do you think are relevant to biology? 🤔🙄 The problem is the corruption of biological terms that have a great deal of relevance to that whole edifice of biology on which much of our so-called civilization rests. The famous biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky once wrote that “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution”. A reasonable corollary might be, “nothing in evolution makes sense except in light of reproduction, sexual reproduction in particular.”

    “obnoxious pig-ignorant liar”

    LoL. And your grandmother wears army boots … You’ve put diddly-squat on the table to justify any of your claims. You might consider putting less emphasis on “rage” and more on facts and logic.

  75. says

    Words don’t have meaning. They have range of usability.
    And sometimes in different field of life we use the same wrd with slightly different range.

    About definition of woman – who cares? How does it affect me if some person identifies as man, woman, non-binary or attack helicopter?

    Bathrooms should be unisex anyway, 1-person or with stalls giving you privacy
    Sports should be decided by scientists and sport bodies to find rules that would ensure fair competition, without politicians meddling.
    Laws should not take gender into account anyway.
    And unless you want to have sex with someone, their genitals and pronouns doesn’t matter.

  76. Ridana says

    64 @ Fred Kadiddlehopper:

    PZ’s letter writer said, “If you can define a cat, as for example, … a carnivorous mammal with retractible [sic] claws…” According to their definition, cheetahs are not cats. I don’t need to check Wikipedia, thanks.

  77. says

    Fred! You’re lying, and you’re stupid!

    What unmitigated horse crap. Even PZ apparently now, surprisingly but quite thankfully, endorses “produces ova” – present tense indefinite – as the “technical definition”, as the biological definition for “female (sex)”.

    I said no such thing. You are wilfully misrepresenting this post, where I said:

    Here’s a brute fact: John produces sperm. Jennifer produces ova, sometimes. There’s no denying these simple, measurable observations. Further, we’ll stipulate that these are healthy eggs and sperm, and that I can extract these cell types in the lab and combine them in a dish and create a healthy, growing diploid zygote, that I could then implant in an individual who has a uterus and grow to adulthood. In fact, if I wanted to engineer a master race, I could go through the population and segregate out the individuals who make sperm and those who make ova and begin doing all kinds of interesting biological experiments.
    Now, here are some social facts: John is a man. Jennifer is a woman. And Racist Twitter is saying, “Of course!” Except that that has taken a simple brute fact, the presence of organs that produce gametes, and extrapolated it into the socially loaded gender terms that carry huge amounts of baggage and imply lots of details in our heads that aren’t necessarily true. For example, you might then imagine John is a bit larger and physically stronger than Jennifer, which, on average, is probably true, but not necessarily so.

    Then you go on to make this ridiculous claim:

    “produces ova” is, as I’ve argued above, what is called the “necessary and sufficient condition” to qualify any human – any member of any sexually-reproducing species for that matter – as a female.

    Necessary? Are you kidding me? So you’re saying my wife and my granddaughter are not female, because they don’t meet your fucking “necessary” condition? And you claim that I agree with that?
    Bye. You’re an idiot.

  78. says

    “Necessary and sufficient condition?” That phrase sounds like something out of Thomist theosophistry. Is it used in biology?

  79. Tethys says

    @Fred Kaputzkinkoph

    Your insistence that the ability to produce ova is the one true “qualifier” to be female or women excludes the vast majority of cis women that currently exist. Logically that would mean that any female humans who are juveniles, post-menopausal, infertile, or have polycystic ovaries aren’t really women, as they don’t produce ova.

    Thinking is not what trolls do best.

  80. says

    PZ: That blast from the past had an interesting comment from Silentbob:

    There’s a great line people use to get this concept across, “the map in not the territory”.

    Everyone understands a map of the United States with it’s labels and borders is not the physical reality of the actual landmass, but a way of thinking about it socially.

    Suddenly, when it comes to, “women menstuate, men don’t”, people insist that’s just biological reality and can’t seem to get it through their heads they’re describing the map (and a rather outdated one), not the territory.

  81. Tethys says

    It is telling that troll uses words like qualify to discuss gender, but only trans women are subject to their arbitrary conditions.

    It’s obvious that the troll is deeply worried that if trans women are allowed to exist he might be tricked into having sex with them, which would make Fred all gay. Its all about the peen.

    See also the other hateful idiot who has been going on at length on Twitter about trans men getting their breasts surgically removed during transitioning, as if removing boobies was some personal affront that has destroyed civilization.

  82. woozy says

    @90

    Your insistence that the ability to produce ova is the one true “qualifier” to be female or women excludes the vast majority of cis women that currently exist.

    Well, to be … um, fair?…. he did not deny it and confirmed that was indeed what he meant @72

    As you suggest, the logical consequence of which is that those who can’t “produce ova” – prepubescent girls & menopausees for examples – are, ipso facto, not females.

    Which makes one wonder about his reading comprehension.

    @76

    But you may wish to take a real close look at that tweet of PZ’s. In particular, his:

    By the technical definition, many cis women are not female.

    But IF “woman” is defined as “adult human females (sex)” THEN all women are females. His assertion there makes as much sense as “many cis teenagers are not 13 to 19”.

    For god knows how many posts, he seems to fail to understand that it is BECAUSE a “technical” definition fails to include obvious woman it is a rejected and failed definition.

    It’s as though I had said a pie baked in a cement crust would be inedible he insisted on misquoting me 20 times claiming I said “Pies need not be edible”.

  83. raven says

    troll

    A reasonable corollary might be, “nothing in evolution makes sense except in light of reproduction, sexual reproduction in particular.”

    This is dumb.
    The troll is pretending to understand everything while actually not understanding (or caring) about anything.

    Evolution the fact is that life changes through time.
    You don’t need any corollary about reproduction because it is inherent in the definition.
    All life replicates.

    Evolution the theory is how and why life changes through time.
    Again reproduction is inherent in the definition.

    And none of this has anything whatsoever to do with the question here, “What is a woman.”
    It is just words strung together to take up space and sound educated without being educated.

    Some species take up free DNA is a manner analogous to sexual reproduction (i.e gene shuffling/recombination), many species are hermaphrodites such as the snails in my garden, and some species change their sex.
    None of this has anything to do with, “what is a woman”.

  84. says

    Tethys: You mean the same idiot who also had a cow about a much curvier ciswoman, with bigger breasts still attached, being a personal affront that has destroyed civilization? Yeah, dude has issues. Or rather, subscriptions.

  85. Tethys says

    Troll logic also assumed that being a Mom is biological, as if adoption and foster parents don’t exist.

    I find the gate keeping especially tedious. Real men and real women and real parents, as if there as any such thing as fake humans due to their gender presentation.

  86. Tethys says

    @RagingBee

    Yes, that is indeed the loud mouthed asshat I was referring too. I refuse to write his name, but he sure gets his knickers in a twist over boobs attached to people who he does not know in the first place.

  87. says

    I’m thinking he longs for that halcyon archetypal past where spirits were brave, hearts were true, men were real men, women were real women, archetypes were real archetypes, some gods (but not others) were real gods, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri.

  88. Athywren - not the moon you're looking for says

    I do appreciate one thing about what Fred had to say – he ably demonstrates that defining us by our gametes is not limited to denying trans women their womanhood, or trans men their manhood but extends into denying the same to cis people if they aren’t producing the relevant gametes. It shows quite clearly how completely useless it is as a social definition.

    I also quite like how it flatly contradicts the “sex is binary and immutable” idea that often accompanies it when actually taken to its logical conclusion.

  89. BACONSQAUDgaming says

    @15 Wanted to know who sent PZ the email. I did, because I was genuinely interested in hearing what he had to say on the matter. I agree with PZ on some topics, and I disagree with him on others, so I was hoping he would elaborate.
    @2 and @6 I offered several different cat definitions, as the definition would depend on context as to whether I talking about common pets, or the cat family. I didn’t put a lot of thought into them, as I was just trying to give several possible definitions for basic contexts, to show how easy it us to provide my opinion on possible definitions.
    @13 and @36 Your definitions are circular, and thus meaningless. If I say a chordate is something that has the characteristics of a chordate, then that won’t help you unless you know what the characteristics of a chordate are. If you substitute the word cat in for woman in your definitions, you will hopefully see why they are unsatisfactory. If you use the word you are defining in your definition, you aren’t providing an answer to the question, just being evasive.
    @25 The question is simply asking for your opinion. If instead of answering, you are asking why I am asking, then I have to wonder why you are being evasive. You aren’t asking for context, but instead assuming that I’m trying to trick or trap you, when I’m not.

    I’m a fairly liberal Canadian. I would like to be on your side, but I’m trying to be convinced by your arguments, rather than just accepting them uncritically. I find this topic analogous to the religious trying to convince you that god exists. You can ask a believer to define god, and they’ll usually give some vague unconvincing definition or characteristics. This is to be expected with something that (probably) doesn’t exist. That is not the case with asking you to define a woman.

    So I think Matt is demonstrating something important when he asks the question, and people get evasive. I think Matt was intending on using the Socratic method, asking questions to see how well someone understands something, which I see nothing wrong with, but he couldn’t get past the first question. It reminds me of the villains in Ayn Rand novels, who will put great effort into avoiding getting to the point. In my case, I’m just asking for your opinion. I don’t care if you agree with me or not. I’m not going to alert the thought-police, or hold you accountable. If someone is being evasive, then I have to wonder why? Is it because their arguments are weak, so they don’t want them to be scrutinized too closely? Is it because they are afraid someone might disagree with their opinion, and call them out for it? Is it because they are afraid that if they make their opinion public, that someone might try to get them fired for having the wrong opinion? Is it because they don’t have an answer, and don’t want to admit it? Is it because they are worried I’m trying to trap or trick them?

    Personally I don’t care if you define a woman as “an adult female human”, as Matt’s wife does at the end of the film (sorry, spoiler), “a person who our society typically associates with the female sex”, or any of the other definitions that were actually provided. I do care if you are being evasive, resort to ad hominems or other logical fallacies, or insults, as it does nothing to convince me you are right, and instead makes me worry that Matt is.

  90. Tethys says

    Oh no, a troll who is just asking questions might get their feelings hurt and agree with the grifting obscure celebrity Walsh, rather than the actual Professor of developmental biology.

    Why should anyone care about your opinion?
    It will not change the biological fact that a portion of humans have a much more complicated gender identity that may not agree with the gender they were assigned at birth, or either of the two categories.

    Gamete production is not how humans define themselves. Some people who live their lives as male can have functioning ovaries and a uterus, so any laws must be worded to include them in public policies and legislation that applies to people with a uterus. To exclude a whole subset of humans due to their gender would be discriminatory, and thus violate civil rights. How is this concept difficult?

  91. charlesanthony says

    Definition of woman: a member of the set of humans {man, woman, other).

  92. says

    Personally I don’t care if you define a woman as “an adult female human”, as Matt’s wife does at the end of the film (sorry, spoiler), “a person who our society typically associates with the female sex”, or any of the other definitions that were actually provided. I do care if you are being evasive, resort to ad hominems or other logical fallacies, or insults, as it does nothing to convince me you are right, and instead makes me worry that Matt is.

    Wait, what? BACONS doesn’t care what the definition is, but fears that Matt is correct about the definition?

    NEWS FLASH: If you don’t care what the definition is, then you don’t care who is right. If you “fear” one definition is correct, then you DO care what the definition is. At that point, if you tell us you don’t care what the definition is you’re flat out lying — to us, certainly, and possibly to yourself.

    Why would you want to come here and lie?

    I’m a fairly liberal Canadian. I would like to be on your side

    I don’t believe you, but I’m willing to be convinced. So tell me, what’s at stake for you? WHY would you like to be on our side? What do you gain? What do you lose if you’re on Matt’s side?

    If someone is being evasive, then I have to wonder why? Is it because their arguments are weak, so they don’t want them to be scrutinized too closely?

    The arguments probably are weak — at least for many people here. Why? Because gender is a complex topic of longstanding anthropological and sociological research, and different people use the word in different ways. The combination of these two things guarantees that even experts will sometimes misspeak, and for damn sure people who don’t have PhDs in anthropological or sociological studies of the ontology of gender are going to misspeak at the very least, or likely not even know how to coherently define something which is complex, spoken of in contradictory ways by different groups and appears to people who haven’t studied the ontology of gender to be something that is changing.

    If you actually wanted a definition of gender, you’d take a class from an expert in the anthropology of gender and only at the end of a high level class would you feel like you had one you could really understand.

    Asking a biologist for a perfect definition of a non-biological term is, dare I say, evading the issue? I know that you know you were asking a biologist and not someone who studies the ontology of gender, so you can’t now say you were honestly seeking a solid definition.

    You want a real definition, ask a fucking expert. If you want to know something about cancer genetics or caring for zebra fish in a lab environment, you should ask PZ. If you want a definition of gender, you should read my own blog where I have some small expertise and am able to provide you with more than you will likely be able to understand, but you should REALLY go read some of the key texts. I always recommend starting with Kessler & McKenna’s Gender: An Ethnomethodological Approach.

    So how about you get to work actually reading the information you supposedly need to know when deciding what “side” to come down upon, and stow your evasive bullshit about how you would “like” for Matt to be wrong and you want to be on “our” side but you’re desperately afraid that random commenters on a blog haven’t provided you with an airtight, evidence-based definition of a complex human phenomenon that has manifested quite differently over thousands of years of human history and has been studied rigorously for at least many decades.

  93. says

    @13 and @36 Your definitions are circular, and thus meaningless.

    No, they most certainly are not circular — I just went back and reread them. And even if you’re not satisfied with either of them, you could still fall back on the one @1, which I notice you seem to have missed or ignored:

    A woman is a person who our society typically associates with the female sex.

    You can call that “circular” too, but for all practical purposes, it’s the one people actually use in our day-to-day interactions. And the overwhelming majority of the time, it actually works. There are a few more “technical” “scientific” definitions, based on egg-cells, wombs, XX chromosomes and all that, but in the real world, those aren’t the definitions we use, because: a) we’ve been distinguishing men from women for centuries before we even knew anything about those things; b) examining everyone we meet for those features on the spot is, to put it mildly, not an option; and c) relying on any of those definitions would get us a HUGE amount of errors, as others have been pointing out for many years now.

    We know from a very early age that boys and girls, and men and women, are different in very visible ways; and we use those differences — which include both body-shape differences and differences in dress, movement, voice and interaction — to very reliably sort out, in less than a second, what sex each person we see is. What more do you need, ferfucksake?!

    I discussed all this already, @10, 74, 75, 77, 78, and 80, including a few questions as to why this haggling over definitions even matters to you? Seriously, how is any of this even your business, or in any way relevant to your own life or vital interests?

  94. John Morales says

    As I see it, the effort is towards FUD, not for nothing.

    A similar idea to the Socratic method, but ad hoc and poorly instantiated.

    (And well-handled by the commentariat, in general)

  95. says

    One more question, @BACONSQAUDgaming: Why do you believe Matt Walsh is a credible or worthwhile source of information on transgender issues? What are his credentials and experience? Of all the people talking about transgender issues, what led you to listen to Matt Walsh?

  96. StevoR says

    @103. yannoupoika :

    Google Translation : “Mita kourma paskaa te ihmisel olettekaan”

    Huh. Finnish? Could’ve sworn it was Greek.. But then I don’t speak either tongue so .. ok. That’s aimed at who here? Just generally?

    Curiosity piqued. Let’s see :

    https://freethoughtblogs.com/geekyhumanist/2020/05/23/the-proselytising-thread/

    Hmm ..

    The question has come up of how to react to proselytisation attempts on my blog. Yannoupoika, one of the contributors to the recent discussions on here about abortion, has been making a number of statements and claims about the religious belief that he follows (Christianity, if you were wondering).

    Right. Presume that’s the same person.. Whelp, points for subertuge and creativity I guess. Points off for cowardice tho’ I think? Gotsomething a bit more pertinent and interesting to say here, yannoupoika?

  97. says

    @BACONSQUADgaming

    @2 and @6 I offered several different cat definitions, as the definition would depend on context as to whether I talking about common pets, or the cat family. I didn’t put a lot of thought into them, as I was just trying to give several possible definitions for basic contexts, to show how easy it us (sic) to provide my opinion on possible definitions.

    Yeah…it’s clear you “didn’t put a lot of thought into them.” That was obvious! And you still have not demonstrated you have bothered to put thought into them because, as we were pointing out, you failed to satisfy your conditional. As a reminder, you said this: “If you can define a cat, as for example, a member of the Family Felidae, or a carnivorous mammal with retractible (sic) claws, or a common family pet that purrs, then you should be able to provide a definition of a woman.” You couldn’t define “cat” consistently, so now what? It seems you should have no issue, then, with not being able to provide a consistent definition of a woman.
    Your definitions of “cat,” as we were pointing out, are not consistent. Your first definition would seem to include the likes of lions and tigers, but your third definition excludes them. Your second definition potentially excludes cats that have a genetic anomaly where they have no claws at all or cats that have had a freak accident where they lost all their feet and/or claws. (Sure, that would be unlikely, but, if it were to happen, you now have a definition that excludes what most people would consider a cat from the definition of “cat.”) It probably even excludes cats that have been declawed. (Though, I think declawing removes only the front claws and not the back claws…but I could be wrong about that.)
    So now the question is why did you not bother to address the point we were trying to make? Did you not comprehend the point? Or, as you ask, “If someone is being evasive, then I have to wonder why? Is it because their arguments are weak, so they don’t want them to be scrutinized too closely?” It is true that your argument is weak. The question left is if you will acknowledge this or not?
    Shoot…will you even acknowledge you’re making an argument??? Probably not. As others have noted, you say “I don’t care” while obviously caring. You claim to care about people resorting to logical fallacies while ignoring the logical issues in your own statements (e.g, your failure to clearly define “cat”). So you’re either blatantly lying to us or you have a severe lack of self awareness (or both).

  98. says

    @BACONSQUADgaming

    @2 and @6 I offered several different cat definitions, as the definition would depend on context as to whether I talking about common pets, or the cat family. I didn’t put a lot of thought into them, as I was just trying to give several possible definitions for basic contexts, to show how easy it us (sic) to provide my opinion on possible definitions.

    Allow me to put my comment @112 a bit differently and more simply:
    What I was trying to imply back @6 is the definition of “woman,” much like that of “cat,” can vary “depending on context.” It seems you take issue with this when it comes to “woman,” but you seem to be totally OK with the definition of “cat” varying. You’re being inconsistent and you seem to be oblivious to this. In other words, your different definitions for “cat” undermines your objections to different definitions for “woman.” Why can you not recognize this? (I apologize for not being explicit about this earlier…but that was the issue I was trying to point out.)

  99. StevoR says

    @ ^ Leo Buzalsky : Seconded – tho’ I suspect it’s as much disingenuous and dishonest about as oblivious.

    FWIW ‘Cat’ of course is also a person in slang terminology or a vehicle among other things.. Context determines meaning o r at least plays a huge part in that.

  100. says

    Then there’s also catboys and catgirls. But I’m pretty sure a good Christian like yannoupoika wouldn’t want to be seen thinking about that sort of thing…

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